Prof Pamela Gillies: In partnership to develop tomorrow’s leaders

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TRANSFORMING the continent is an adventure, writes Professor Pamela Gillies

We feel very privileged to have launched the African Leadership College in Mauritius in partnership with African Leadership Unleashed. With the support of the Mauritian government and ministry of education, we are the founding academic partner in this innovative higher education institution, established to develop the future leaders for the continent.

More than 4,000 applications were received for the first 180 places, with students from 29 African countries, many from the most disadvantaged of backgrounds, now working towards entry onto GCU degree programmes in business, computing, social sciences and psychology.

It is the first University College in educational entrepreneur Fred Swaniker’s extraordinary ambition to create 25 higher education campuses across Africa. At GCU, the University for the Common Good, we share in his mission to create 250,000 leaders for Africa, from Africa and in Africa, thereby transforming the continent as a result.

It is also an exciting adventure for our staff and students.

GCU was one of the first UK Universities to confer an honorary degree on the late South African president Nelson Mandela in 1996, having previously been made a freeman of the City of Glasgow.

Many of those at the centre of the rebuilding of South Africa have visited our University, including president Thabo Mbeki in 2001, when he opened the University’s health building which is named after his father, Govan Mbeki. In the same year, the new African Leadership College’s very own Chancellor, Graça Machel, Elder, freedom fighter and champion of girls’ rights to an education, unveiled a specially commissioned portrait of Mandela at the Glasgow campus.

We host the Anti-Apartheid Movement Scottish Committee archives. Scottish anti-apartheid activist and GCU honorary graduate Brian Filling, Chair of the Scottish Committee, campaigned from the 1960s against the system in South Africa and the archives provide a unique record of the committee’s work.

Today, the connections still run deep.

For the past five years, in partnership with Transnet Freight Rail and the University of Johannesburg, we have been co-creating and co-delivering work-based higher education for Transnet’s employees.

We are deeply grateful that our students from Glasgow are being given the opportunity by the Transnet Foundation to volunteer on its Phelophepa Train of Hope.

We work closely with African education systems and governments to support talented students. Postgraduate students from Rwanda can gain support through our agreement with the Rwandan Education Board, whilst a unique five-year agreement with the High Commissioner of Malawi is addressing key skills gaps in the south eastern country.

It is not only our students who are intrepid new learners in Africa and from Africa. As the top modern University in Scotland by research power, we focus on applying research in our areas of strength in health, in safe energy and water, in climate justice and in social work and social policy, to deliver real benefits for the communities we serve around the world.

At GCU, we are so very proud to be a part of this compelling narrative.

• Professor Pamela Gillies CBE FRSE, Glasgow Caledonian University Principal and Vice-Chancellor